Business Needs a New Perspective: raceAhead

August 26, 2019, 7:10 PM UTC

What if the mantra of business was not to, in modern tech-industry speak, move fast and break things, but to slow down and understand them?

This is one of the underlying themes of “To Scale: The Solar System,” a beautiful seven minute video shot by filmmakers Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh. 

“Every single picture of the solar system that we ever encounter is not to scale,” begins Overstreet. If you plotted our sun and neighboring planets on a piece of paper like most school kids do, you wouldn’t be able to see anything at all: The heavenly bodies would be microscopic. Every photo, every image, every rendering we’ve ever seen is not only wrong, it gives us an oversized idea of our own place in the galaxy.

In fact, if you held up a blue marble and called it Earth, you’d need seven miles of empty land to draw an accurate representation of the solar system.

Which is exactly what Overstreet and Gorosh did in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. In a delicious irony, the land they used is also the home of the annual Silicon Valley fixation known as the Burning Man festival.

The film is a charming quest to give anyone who hasn’t traveled to the moon a sense of how impossibly large the universe is, an analog adventure in basic math and measurement. The result is deeply humbling and oddly comforting.

“We are on a marble floating in the middle of nothing,” says Wiley. “When you sort of come face to face with that, it’s staggering.”

I flag this for you not as a solar system truther, but as a tonic for the weary traveler struggling to put a whole host of things into a more meaningful perspective—like why or whether it matters that the history of slavery becomes central to the origin narrative of the U.S.

Or why or whether it matters that corporations have shifted their singular focus on “shareholder value” to center other goals like “investing in employees,” fostering “diversity and inclusion,” “dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers,” “supporting the communities in which we work,” and “protect[ing] the environment.”

Perhaps it will come to pass—to stick with my celestial theme until the bitter end—that observing things from different perspectives will change the observer, not the other way around

Overstreet and Gorosh created an even shorter film that touches on this phenomenon, another tonic for inclusion-minded people.

A New View of The Moon” captures three minutes of what happens when you drag a super cool telescope around Los Angeles and let all sorts of very different people take a look at their common moon. “It makes you realize that we are all on a small little planet and we all have the same reaction to the universe we live in,” says Overstreet.

And how much we lose when we focus on the wrong things.

Wow. Oh my God, don’t miss it.

On Point

Inclusion experts and activists struggle to survive Facebook moderation tactics Facebook’s attempts to quell hate, racist, misogynist, and threatening speech on the platform are imperfect by all accounts; their standards are confusing, ever-changing, and their efforts clearly aren’t working. But this piece from Reveal shows how Facebook users of color, even inclusion experts and authors, are disproportionately punished by Facebook censors, while their white harassers are not. "Sherronda Brown had posts removed and her profile suspended in May for posting screenshots of harassment she and other black women received on Facebook," reports Reveal. The people who posted the vile messages were not punished. Reveal News

A North Carolina teen registered people to vote while they waited online for Popeye’s new chicken sandwich Seventeen-year-old David Ledbetter became politically active after he recently attended a caucus meeting and noticed there were hardly any young people there. "I wanted to start an initiative to allow more youth to become politically involved so I thought registering people to vote and handing out information on voting would be the best way to engage," he said. Mr. Ledbetter is pleased to report that most people waiting were already registered but he did sign up 16 new voters. He is looking forward to his first ever voting experience in 2020. Because Of Them We Can blog

Seattle is making progress on ‘the war on drugs’ Nick Kristoff brings the details to this long piece on Seattle’s efforts to turn the tide on drug use in the city, and it’s all worth your time. But the answer is surprisingly simple: Instead of jailing people for illegal use of drugs, give them access to social services and treat them for addiction. Law-and-order hardliners still find it shocking, but it’s a legitimate strategy, particularly for low income or historically targeted populations. "The war on drugs has been one of America’s most grievous mistakes, resulting in as many citizens with arrest records as with college diplomas," says Kristoff. "At last count, an American was arrested for drug possession every 25 seconds, yet the mass incarceration this leads to has not turned the tide on narcotics." New York Times

On Background

Swimming while Muslim As the summer winds down, it’s worth noting that Muslim women who choose to wear modest burkinis routinely feel fear and face intimidation at the nation’s beaches, pools, and watering holes. HuffPost interviewed 30 Muslim women for this story and found that while not everyone had a bad experience, most reported being confronted, abused, humiliated, and judged. "Muslim women are still fighting for their right to swim," says writer Rowaida Abdelaziz. It’s also worth noting that this story about Muslim women was both written by and (gorgeously) photographed by a Muslim woman. Follow documentary photographer Kholood Eid here and here. HuffPost

The trouble with Orange County The idyllic Southern California region seems to be experiencing a wave of pro-Nazi sentiment in its high schools. Several prominent schools have made headlines that revealed troubling behavior from some of their white students, including videos of students with racist symbols, and bullying behaviors are escalating. Last year, a member of a local militant neo-Nazi group was charged for murdering a 19-year-old gay Jewish classmate. But none of this behavior is new according to the current and former students that were interviewed for this piece, who cited the unwillingness of law enforcement and school officials to take the threats posed by white supremacists seriously. The latest scandal involves chilling video of 10 members of the Pacifica High School boys water polo team performing the "Sieg Heil" salute and marching with German and Confederate flags. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," says Rabbi Peter Levi, the ADL regional director in Orange county. The Guardian

Happy birthday Althea Gibson The daughter of sharecroppers would grow up to be a tennis trailblazer, though she is not mentioned as often as Arthur Ashe or baseball's Jackie Robinson. But Gibson was the first black player to enter the U.S. Nationals, and the first to win at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and Forest Hills. Now, the champion is about to be twice feted: First with a memorial sculpture at the U.S. Open facility in Queens, and second, with the re-dedication of a historic tennis court in North Carolina where she first started. Gibson was identified early as a great talent and was sponsored by two black leaders, both doctors, who hoped she’d be the first to integrate the sport. Gibson had been growing up largely unsupervised in Harlem, where she was behind in school and her manners, her biographers report. Relocating to Wilmington, N.C., she moved in swith the family of a surgeon at the African-American hospital, where she trained, excelled in school, and became part of black Southern society. "Everything about Dr. Eaton was about discipline and structure," says one historian. "He saved her life."

Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.

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“Shaking hands with the Queen of England was a long way from being forced to sit in the colored section of the bus going into downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.”

Althea Gibson

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